Monthly Archives: August 2014

Quark. Only mostly dead.

Back in 2011, it was widely reported that Quark, the legendary maker of software that at one time was the cornerstone of the desktop publishing industry, had been purchased by Los Angeles-based mergers and acquisitions firm Platinum Equity. Quark’s star had been waning for years by then, its once-sterling reputation now tarnished by a series of blunders in what appeared to be a deliberate and targeted campaign of ill will against its primary customers, Mac users in the industry.  Increasing pressure from Adobe’s encroachment into the publishing space and a CEO that couldn’t keep his mouth shut accelerated the fall, so no one was really surprised when news of the sale broke.  The common speculation was that the whatever valuable IP remained would be sold off to the highest bidder and the company dissolved.  An ignominious end to a sad story, indeed.

Quark global headquarters in downtown Denver, Colorado.

Quark global headquarters in downtown Denver, Colorado.

Sensitive as I am to such things as the suffering of others, I exploited the opportunity to write a post about some of my favorite Apple II and /// products from Quark’s early days.  And, like everyone else, I was expecting the worst for Quark.

Well, turns out they’re still in business.  As I was trying to restore some of the old articles that existed here a few years back, I did a little Googling and yep – they’re still around.  I’m not sure what they’re doing these days.  Gaining market share lost to Adobe doesn’t seem to be a priority, but Platinum Equity is content to let them keep at it.  And that’s cool – my “not so fond farewell” can wait.  Here’s the old article, with the stuff about Quark’s demise excised.

This post originally appeared on on August 9, 2011.

Those of us who have been playing around with computers for a bit longer than the average user probably remember Quark for more than just a powerful desktop publishing application. Here’s a quick look at some of the stuff they produced for my favorite 8-bit home computer, the Apple II (and III!). Don’t worry, the list is short.



Quark was an early proponent of DRM and implemented draconian copy protection schemes in their products. Catalyst was designed as a program selector to assist Apple /// users in loading their expensive business products from diskette onto their new, even more expensive hard disk systems while retaining their copy protection. They were going for the best of both worlds here, and didn’t really attain either.


An Apple /// user would first install Catalyst onto their shiny new $5,000 10 MB ProFile drive and then, through a series of convoluted steps, load various pieces of software into Catalyst. During the install, the user’s original diskettes would be disabled and permanently tied to the Catalyst diskette so that the originals would no longer boot and could only be reinstalled to the hard drive through the specific copy of Quark’s program to which they were tied. Quark whimsically referred to these lobotomized disks as, “Catalyzed”.


Have you been… uh… Catalyzed?

Additionally, if your newly enslaved applications required access to your printer, Catalyst had to be manually configured through a quick, 30-step process… Okay, maybe not so quick.



Catalyst itself was also copy protected and featured a serial number so that once “Catalyzed” your applications couldn’t be loaded by a copy with a different serial number.

You can imagine the headache you were in for if you one day decided to move to a different program selector to access your programs once they had been modified.

A version of Catalyst creatively called “Catalyst IIe” was eventually introduced for the Apple IIe and IIc.

Word Juggler


Quark’s word processor for the Apple II line was known for its ease of use, extensive feature set and simple learning curve and matched up well against AppleWriter, which served as Word Juggler’s main competition until the AppleWorks suite was released by Apple in 1984. On the Apple ///, Word Juggler was the first, and for years only, commercially available word processor.

Apple recommended Word Juggler and even sold copies directly to customers and through dealer retail shelves while its own offering, Apple Writer ///, floundered in development hell.

Word Juggler ad from InfoWorld, Nov 30, 1981

Word Juggler ad from InfoWorld, Nov 30, 1981

On your Apple II, it came with a custom set of keycaps, silk-screened with convenient command information, and a nice keyboard template of sorts, that you could align with your number keys for easy reference while working.  Fancy.


Word Juggler wasn’t immune to Quark’s copy protection efforts and customers had to install a hardware dongle in their Apple II to get the software to boot up at all. All that convenience and flare didn’t come for free, it seems.


Lurking silently in your Apple II, protecting Quark’s IP.

And that pretty much wraps it up for Quark’s 8-bit Apple software offerings. They also sold a number of minor applications, most designed to enhance Word Juggler. Lexicheck was an 8,000-word spelling checker; Terminus provided telecommunications functionality; Mail List Manager Interface also integrated with Word Juggler as did TypeFace, giving you access to typesetting equipment, should you have it.



And so we bid a not-so-fond farewell to the corporate entity known as Quark, Inc.

Perhaps Quark, Inc.’s final chapter has yet to be written…

Apple III by the Numbers

As one of the half-dozen or so Apple /// fans out there, I am often quizzed by skeptical Apple II users about the computer that has sometimes been compared to the Ford Edsel.  Usually, these grillings immediately follow a post (or occasional KansasFest presentation) in which I point out some of the obvious improvements and superior features of the /// as compared to the earlier home computer from Cupertino, and the queries inevitably include this one:

“Is the Apple /// really *that* much faster than the II?”

And the answer is simple: Yes.  Sort of.  Sometimes. Maybe.

Early reviews in trade magazines dated around the NCC ’80 introduction often mentioned that the Synertek 6502A (or later B) was advertised by Apple as “peak 2 MHz” and that more realistically, the /// tops out between 1.4 MHz and 1.8 MHz, depending on a number of factors, including the task you’re asking it to perform, how many device drivers are active, the version of SOS you’re running, etc.

(Note: SOS 1.1, which was used in the BYTE article referenced below and its predecessor, 1.0 were notorious resource hogs and ate away at precious CPU cycles and bytes of RAM even while sitting idle.  Most of the bugs, as well as the bloat, were squashed with SOS 1.3 and if you’re using a real /// at home, you really shouldn’t be messing about with those older releases… your /// tip of the day folks.  For the discussion below, SOS’s performance doesn’t factor in much until the disk tests.)

The common wisdom from the era is that in early ///’s, you could reasonably expect 1.2 MHz – 1.4 MHz and in later models with improved hardware and leaner software, around 1.6 MHz.  The reviewers are also careful to state that unlike the II, the /// was designed so that the 6502 had a handful of supporting ICs to which it could hand off tasks so even in 1980, true MHz numbers could be deceiving.  Additionally, engineers came up with a clever trick to squeeze an extra .2 MHz out of the aging CPU: if you didn’t need to interact with the /// or see what was going on (e.g., during a big sort or heavy number crunching), you could tap CTRL-5 to shut off the video signal generation circuitry.  Even cooler was the fact that certain programs such as VisiCalc were smart enough to notice this and automatically re-enable the video as soon as the operation was finished.  Neat!

One of the reasons I miss BYTE magazine (the old BYTE, like pre-1992-ish) is their extensive reviews that got way down to the metal and dug around for all the good stuff (and the bad stuff too that the companies didn’t want you to see).

September 1982 issue of BYTE.  Chock full o' geeky goodness

September 1982 issue of BYTE. Chock full o’ hobbyist goodness.

When Apple launched the re-introduction PR blitz for the /// in late 1981/early 1982, BYTE took another look at the “newly revised” business computer.  Apple had been touting the improved horsepower beneath the 26 lb. pressed-aluminum RFI chassis and how much better it was at number crunching, sorts and other functions the pinstripe Wall Street crowd would love, even two years after its release.  As part of the review in the September 1982 issue of BYTE, author Robin Moore decided to run the numbers and see how much spin was really coming from Apple.

Remember that when the /// was initially released in 1980, the IBM PC was still months away from retail shelves, so there wasn’t an interesting comparison to be done.  Revisiting the /// in-depth like this was really beneficial because Apple considered the PC its primary competition on the business desktop.  And Moore helpfully included Apple II numbers for us fanboys too!

Something else to keep in mind before we dive in: by the time this review was published, the /// was approaching its third birthday and had come down in price somewhat, but was still much more expensive than a II stuffed with expansion cards to approximate functionality.  Apple listed a 128K /// at $3,495; 256K /// at $4,295; and a monochrome Apple Monitor /// at $320.

The /// used in these tests was a 128K model with the Synertek 6502B, a single external Disk /// Drive, and Business BASIC.  Total price: $4,115.

The IBM PC was a 4.77 MHz Intel 8088-based system with 48K base memory, a disk adapter card and one 160K internal floppy drive, a 16K memory / game adapter expansion card, a single additional floppy drive (the PC could only handle one external drive at the time), a RS-232C interface card, another 64K memory expansion card, a color graphics adapter card, and IBM Advanced BASIC.  All of these add-ons brought the PC approximately up to what was available in-built to the ///.

Welcome, IBM. Seriously.

Even with the extras you’d have to buy to match specs, the PC was still slightly cheaper, at $3,980.  On the other hand, this configuration maxed out all the expansion possibilities in the IBM; the Apple still had four free slots available to the user, plus the interface ports on the rear of the computer.

A fourth machine, a 4 MHz Z80 whose brand Moore doesn’t mention, is also given a lane in this digital derby.  This machine was tested with Microsoft MBASIC 4.51.

Moore takes a moment to note the difference in sales philosophy between the two companies.  Apple’s approach was to build in all the “good stuff” a business user might need and then charge accordingly, whereas IBM sold you a basic machine at a lower cost and let you fill it up with whatever you felt you’d need to get the job done.  Interesting that IBM’s thinking was much closer to how the Apple II was developed and marketed than Apple’s own offering.

Apple /// vs IBM PC: Price

Apple /// vs IBM PC: Price

Moore doesn’t list what he put in the II (and in fact, he may have run the tests in the ///’s Apple II Emulation mode, which obviously invalidates those results as anything but a curiosity), but he does pause to mention how differently Apple viewed its potential /// customers from the II buyers, and he does it by pointing out the documentation that ships (or rather, doesn’t) with the ///:

“Much of the technical information included in the Apple II is absent in the Apple /// package.  There is no discussion of bus structure, I/O addressing, memory usage, or screen-memory mapping.  There are no listings published for any of the system software, either in the Apple /// ROMs or on disk.  Apple does not even tell you about the monitor program in the ROMs…”

Moore goes on to check out the hardware (he really seems to like it – a man of impeccable taste, obviously…), features unique to SOS, graphics modes, INVOKABLES and other points of interest before he gets down to business and pits the machines against each other in a brutal performance deathmatch. Well, maybe not quite that dramatic… (I’ll have a link to a PDF scan of the original review at the end of this post, if you want to read the whole thing.)

Let’s take a look…

All of the benchmarks are done in the machines’ respective versions of BASIC and Moore lets us know that the ///’s 6502B is crippled right out of the gate by its own language:

The price of doing Business... BASIC.

The price of doing Business… BASIC.

He also notes that Business BASIC will likely see bigger performance gains over Applesoft with larger programs, and that the tests didn’t include the video blanking trick in the ///, costing it seconds in the final numbers.

Moore’s routines include a number of simple instruction sets, all of which seem likely to be functions commonly used by BASIC programmers: IF… THEN statements, REM execution, basic maths and variable handling, prime numbers, loops, etc.; as well as disk access times for floppies and fixed-media systems.

Moore puts the machines through their BASIC paces.

Moore puts the machines through their BASIC paces.

And… drum roll please… dah duh-duh daaaaaaah!

And the winner is...

And the winner is…

It’s clear that while the ///’s Business BASIC enjoys a slight-to-medium advantage in some (but not most) program execution areas when tested against the II running Applesoft, it’s really no contest when it faces the IBM PC and the Z80.  As expected, the II drops far back when tasked with complex math functions, but the /// still isn’t close to the other competitors.  The results are undeniable: across the board, the /// just can’t keep up.

At least in Business BASIC.

Unfortunately, Moore’s benchmarks are rather narrow in scope (in fact, it appears he didn’t test the PC or the Z80 himself, but pulled the numbers from another BYTE article).  It would have been nice to see how the /// stacks up when flexing some serious spreadsheet calculation muscle in Advanced VisiCalc (to be fair, the PC’s killer app, Lotus 1-2-3 wouldn’t be released until the year following Moore’s review), or Pascal program execution, or in a mixed BASIC and assembly environment.  Other critical testing areas such as graphics performance are absent as well.

So what’s the lesson here?

It’s something you still hear today, that “megahertz don’t matter”. And that’s true in the general sense (due to their efficient RISC architecture, both DEC’s Alpha and Motorola’s 680×0 chips for years easily outperformed similarly clocked Intel processors, for example), but a battery of focused benchmarks can give you a good overall view of where one machine is going to shine… or stumble.

Also remember that Moore’s tests don’t take into account the ~ 30% speed increase gained from disabling the ///’s video circuitry, so the gaps may be narrower than they first appear.

And finally, considering all the complex memory bank switching and other voodoo the /// system has to do behind the scenes to trick the 6502 into seamlessly accessing as much as 512K, the fact that it didn’t fall hopelessly behind the simpler, more elegant Apple II is a testament to the brilliant engineering that really is present in the ///.

On the other hand, given those same very thin apparent margins over the II (again, assuming that the Applesoft tests weren’t run in emulation) and the significant price disparity and divergent design philosophies behind the machines, it’s easy to see why the /// had a such a hard time finding a place of its own in an increasingly crowded and cut-throat marketplace.

Tomorrow, we’ll go over the rest of the article, where Moore looks at the all important disk seek/access times…


Back in 2012, I posted a link here to a Flickr set of photos I’d taken while disassembling one of my Mac XL’s for cleaning. I think originally I’d intended to eventually do a little write up on it or something and never got to it, so here it is now.

The Mac XL is a re-branded Lisa 2 with a new operating system called MacWorks XL and some hardware modifications allowing it to display square pixels as the Macintosh did, rather than the older Lisa-style rectangular pixels. The new video ROMs and software were part of the Macintosh XL Screen Kit, which made it possible for an owner to run Macintosh software on her converted Lisa, and without sacrificing the larger 12″ monitor.

Apple converted many of the original Lisa 2’s when they were brought in to service centers for maintenance; the dealership would install the hardware – as with many upgrades and add-ons, Apple didn’t sell this kit directly to end users – and the owner could do the upgrade to MacWorks XL once they got it home. Customers could also ship their machines directly to Apple for a full retrofit, if they were willing to live without it for a few days. Apple also converted their remaining Lisa 2 warehouse stock and sold them new as XLs; this particular unit is one of those machines.

Upgraded machines could no longer run the Lisa 7/7 software that originally shipped with their computers.

* I apologize for the dreadful layout below; WordPress still stinks at understanding simple stuff like that.

If you prefer just the pix, without the  layout ugliness, you can visit the original photo set at 500px:

Photograph Apple Mac XL (1985) by Mike Maginnis on 500px

The Lisa was the first line of computers from Apple to ship with a keyboard not integrated into the case.

The 1/4″ TRS phone connector used to connect the keyboard to the main CPU box was a design choice Apple didn’t revisit in the Macintosh.

The glowing light above the plug is the power button.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - keyboard connection and power light by Mike Maginnis on 500px

This Mac XL is running MacWorks.

After Apple got out of the Lisa game and sold its remaining stock to Sun Remarketing, the Logan, Utah-based reseller continued to develop the software and soon released MacWorks Plus, which shipped with System 6.

MacWorks Plus II was the final upgrade, and allowed the XL to run System 7.5 software.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - The Macintosh Finder by Mike Maginnis on 500px


A close-up of the Apple rainbow logo, just beneath the 3.5″ floppy slot.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - floppy and logo by Mike Maginnis on 500px

The Lisa was designed to be as modular and accessible as possible, to make it easy to access the machine’s internals for troubleshooting and upgrading.

Loosening the two silver thumb screws at the top of the rear panel is the only step necessary to remove it and get inside.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - back by Mike Maginnis on 500px

The only bit of color on the back, this rainbow logo centered in a sea of beige draws the eye and reminds the viewer of the neatly symmetrical industrial design around it.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - rear logo badge by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Removing the plastic front bezel is as simple as pressing two latch release tabs along the bottom front edge and lifting away from the unit.

The drive cage on the right has the 10 MB Widget drive mounted above the 800 KB 3.5″ floppy drive.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - open front by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Closer to the Widget drive.

The hard disk drive itself is the rounded unit with the “Apple Computer” sticker, with the logic boards mounted above.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - 10 MB Widget Hard Drive by Mike Maginnis on 500px

The drive cage module slides out easily by loosening one thumb screw at the bottom of the assembly.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - removing the drive cage by Mike Maginnis on 500px


Drive cage, totally removed from the chassis.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - two layer Lisa Widget controller by Mike Maginnis on 500px


  Another view of the drive cage removed from the chassis, cables still plugged in.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - drive cage out by Mike Maginnis on 500px  

Close-up of the Apple Computer label on the hard disk drive.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - 10 MB Widget HDD by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Close-up of the floppy disk mechanism.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - floppy drive by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Mac XL chassis with all of the rear modules removed.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - empty chassis by Mike Maginnis on 500px

These connectors link the read modules to the components in the front of the unit.

On the left is the CPU cage connector; the power supply connects on the right.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - internal connectors by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Rear of the Mac XL with the access panel removed.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - rear open by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Close-up of the serial connectors and the interrupt. The mouse is plugged in on the left.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - rear ports by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Another view of the rear connectors.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - connector ports by Mike Maginnis on 500px

CPU cage removed from the chassis with the boards still mounted.

The two smaller boards in front are the memory PCBs. The slots to the right are for expansion boards.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - card cage by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Close-up of the color-coded board fasteners.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - System I/O, CPU and memory board cage by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Close-up of the expansions slots.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - expansion slots by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Power supply module.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - power supply module by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Power supply serial number label.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - power supply by Mike Maginnis on 500px

CPU board. The Motorola 68000 processor is at the top right corner of the PCB.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - CPU board by Mike Maginnis on 500px

System I/O board.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - System I/O board by Mike Maginnis on 500px

CPU cage with the boards removed, showing the logos on the backplane.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - card cage slots by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Close-up of the “Lisa” and “Apple Computer” logos on the CPU backplane. “8502” date code indicates this board is from February 1985.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - Lisa and Apple Computer, Inc. logos by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Another view of the CPU backplane logos, this time with the layers of dust cleaned away.

The “ICT” stamp above the motherboard part number likely indicates this board as passed “In Circuit Testing”.

ICT is expensive and time-consuming and requires a costly test fixture, but is an extremely thorough method for confirming proper operation of a PCB and components, and ideal for high-volume production of mature products, which the Lisa line was by 1985.

It is also a highly effective method for detecting design-related and component failures, things Apple was very sensitive to following the Apple /// debacle.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - silkscreened Lisa logo and dates by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Close-up of the DRAMs on the Upper Byte memory board.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - "Upper Byte" board by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Part Number and assembly information for the Upper Byte memory board.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - memory board P/N & copyright by Mike Maginnis on 500px

DRAMs on the Lower Byte memory board.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - DRAMs by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Close-up of the “Lisa” logo on one of the PCBs.

This logo and in fact the word “Lisa” itself only appear internally on the Mac XL.

If someone had never seen this machine before, they might be hard-pressed to identify it unless they opened it up. The Mac XL had very little external “branding” other than the rainbow Apple logos.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - Lisa logo by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Apple Computer part number and copyright on the I/O board.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - PCB markings by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Close-up of the Mac XL disk ROMs on the System I/O board.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - Disk ROMs by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Close-up of the Mac XL boot ROMs on the CPU board.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - boot roms by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Close-up of the 8 MHz Motorola 68000. This CPU is the heart and soul of Lisa and Macintosh.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - CPU by Mike Maginnis on 500px

The card cage backplane is dirtier than it looks…

Photograph Apple Mac XL - "Layers of Dust" by Mike Maginnis on 500px

A little cleaning reveals there’s an Apple Computer copyright stamp hidden under the layers of dust…

Photograph Apple Mac XL - layers of dust by Mike Maginnis on 500px

… and completely cleaned up. Amazing what you find under all that dirt.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - no dust by Mike Maginnis on 500px

Artsy view of the DRAMs on one of the memory boards.

Photograph Apple Mac XL - DRAMs by Mike Maginnis on 500px